7 signs you have an unhealthy relationship with food

Nutritionist and cook, Zoe Bingley-Pullin, knows how to spot a bad relationship with food. Here's how you can spot the bad habits, and replace them with good ones!

Often, a bad relationship (with food or otherwise) is hard to recognise when you're stuck in the middle of it.

Worse still, even when we know something isn't right, it's sometimes harder to seek the right advice or tell the right people in order to find love and support.

To help you figure out if your relationship with food has turned a bit sour, I've jotted down some red flags to keep your eye on!

1. You feel overwhelmed with guilt after eating certain foods

Food is to be enjoyed! Don't think of it as 'the enemy'. After all, overindulging or eating a ‘treat’ is perfectly healthy and a normal, joyful part of life. Understand that your body can handle a less-than-ideal meal or snack and give yourself permission to enjoy. Remember, your next meal, is a brand new opportunity to start fresh.

2. You compensate for ‘indulging’ in food with excessive exercise or significantly reducing food intake the next day

This type of behaviour can create a vicious cycle when it comes to your relationship with food. Aim to be easier on yourself, eat according to natural hunger cues and exercise in a way you enjoy and feel energised by.

3. You regularly eat to the point of discomfort or don’t provide your body with enough food to function

Ideally, we should eat until satisfied and not overly full. It can be hard not to eat too much when you're hungry and your food is just that good, I know. And on the other hand, it can be similarly difficult to eat three full meals (or several small meals), if you're too busy to keep to a routine.

To overcome these things, it is helpful to think about food as fuel for your body - not just nutrients or calories, but actual fuel. If you're feeling tired, drowsy, un-energised - this could be because you haven't eaten enough.

4. You label food in terms of “good” or “bad/forbidden”

Food should not come with conditions or labels. All food is okay in moderation and contributes to a healthy balanced diet. Putting rules on food only causes feelings of stress around food.  Aim to let go of labels and focus on balance and moderation.

5. You spend way too much time stressing and obsessing over food

Constant obsessing over food is a sign of restricting certain foods or not feeding yourself enough food. Anyone who has ever dieted would know this all too well! Drop the diet mentality and make peace with allowing your body and mind what it needs. If you feel like you need some guidance, chat to your doctor or a nutritionist.

6. You avoid social situations that involve food

Stress around food should not interfere with your personal relationships and social events. Undoubtedly, avoiding social occasions due to food can create feelings of loneliness and isolation. While working on overcoming such behaviours, start small and suggest a food outing, which does suit your eating habits, or offer to bring a dish when invited over for dinner. You will soon realise the worry was not worth it!

7.  You use food to control or block emotions

Food should be considered an act of nourishing and taking care of yourself and not used to avoid feeling certain emotions. If feeling stressed or a bit blue, have strategies in place to help you unwind that don't involve food, and give yourself a breather such as walking it out, talking to a friend or engaging in a five-minute yoga/breathing routine.

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